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10/27/2010

One year ago: Roy DeCarava

October 27, 2010 |  6:00 am

Decavera Roy DeCarava, an art photographer and photojournalist, was famous for his powerful, everyday-life shots of African Americans living in Harlem. He died one year ago at age 89.

DeCarava captured spontaneous moments using a small, 35-millimeter camera that allowed him freedom to roam. He was well-known for his candid shots of musicians -- many of them taken in smoky clubs using only available light. Shadow and darkness became hallmarks of DeCarava's style.

DeCarava's first major exhibit was at the Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego in 1986. Ten years later, he was the subject of a one-man exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

"Roy was one of the all-time great photographers," Arthur Ollman, founding director of the San Diego museum, said in 2005. "His photographs provided a vision of African American life that members of the white fine art photography establishment could not have accessed on their own."

While art photography was his passion, DeCarava often earned his living as a freelance photojournalist. He shot for media outlets such as Newsweek, Life and Sports Illustrated throughout his career. Also, in the 1960s, he began teaching, first at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York, and at Hunter College starting in 1975.

For more on the photographer who shook up the mid-20th century art establishment, read Roy DeCarava's obituary by The Times, and see a photo gallery of his work.

-- Michael Farr

Photo: Roy DeCarava in 1996. Credit: Mitsu Yasukawa / For The Times

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